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Ongoing Conservative Delusions

November 30, 2012

There's a phenomenon I've long noticed among liberals dissatisfied with Barack Obama, whereby they'll say, "He's never said X!", with X being some kind of defense of liberal values or articulation of the liberal position on a particular issue. But if you look through his speeches and comments, you'll find that just about every time, he has in fact said whatever it is he's being blamed for never saying. Maybe he hasn't said it often enough for your liking, but the real problem is probably that saying it didn't have the effect you wanted.

I thought of that reading this article by Molly Ball about a gathering of conservatives yesterday at which new senator Ted Cruz of Texas was the headliner:

"More than a few conservatives say, well, if the voters want to bankrupt our country, let them suffer the consequences," he said. But the real problem, Cruz said, was that "Republicans were curled up in the fetal position, so utterly terrified of the words 'George W. Bush'" -- for whom Cruz once worked, as a campaign adviser and in the Justice Department -- "that we never bothered to contest" Obama's economic arguments. The "utterly ridiculous notion" of a "war on women" also went unchallenged, in Cruz's telling.

The other speakers at the dinner -- which was also attended by two members of Congress, Raul Labrador of Idaho and Steve King of Iowa, as well as a former Commerce Secretary, Carlos Gutierrez, and emceed by Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard -- were even more adamant that it was the method, not the message, that lost the election for the GOP.

Now, it's true that Republicans didn't talk about Bush, but that's because the voters still kind of hate him. But the idea that Republicans "never bothered to contest" Obama's economic arguments? That they never challenged the "war on women" notion? Seriously?

You can argue that Mitt Romney was a crappy candidate, but no conservative can reasonably claim that he didn't make a case for conservatism. In fact, that was the best thing about this election: for all the trivia, it presented a fundamental ideological debate, with both candidates talking about first principles throughout. Conservatives aren't happy that they lost that argument. But even though it's not particularly good politics to condemn the voters for not seeing the light, it's a lot more honest than saying they never got the chance to hear what conservatism had to offer.

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